Cairo to Cape Town – ‘Here Be Dragons’
We are unable to run any cycle tours at the moment, but we know our community has lots of great stories to share. We will be posting many of these in the coming weeks as part of our #tdacommunitynews initiative. Keep an eye out for blogs like this below by guest writer and former Tour d’Afrique participant Karen Robyn. You will also be seeing lots of photos, videos and discussions on our social media channels. Enjoy…
I rode Cairo to Cape Town in 2018, but had to leave in Lusaka due to illness. In 2019 I was scrubbed at the last minute, for surgery. This year…. well you know what happened this year [the 2020 Tour d’Afrique was stopped in Arusha due to the COVID-19 outbreak].
In the months leading up to that point, while I trained, I followed along with the group beginning in Cairo. It was great to see all those places again through a new group’s eyes, and to feel a part of it. It gave me a chance to get to know them a bit before I joined.
I haven’t used Instagram a lot, but beginning when they were in Cairo, I went back every day to find some of the best shots and stories from my blog posts of that same stage in 2018, and I posted that. I paced along with them, in a way. The posts began very small but quickly grew to the max number of photos and words allowed as I got into it. I fell behind as my departure neared and then, I think understandably, put it aside when [the tour was cancelled]. The Instagram posts are at @karenrobyn and the blog can be found here.
The very first post in the blog is not included in the Instagram feed, but it might be my favourite because it was written before we began, when all was potential and anticipation. Here we go…
“OLD MAPS—EARLY MODERN EUROPEAN MAPS—CONTAIN UNCHARTED TERRITORY, ACROSS WHICH BEASTS RUMBLE AND SERPENTS WRITHE. THEY HAVE DRAGONS.”
The medieval phrase captivates me. Were there dragons? Or Sirens? Perhaps. I like to think so… Dangers, certainly – as there are even in our own bright kitchens.
Dragons stood in for unknown dangers which are, because they are unknown, so much more menacing than kitchen dangers. Menacing and exotic and thrilling. Those hand-painted creatures on maps were our own demons and dreams. They were the ‘other’, they were what lay beyond …
In those days, without communication or even a map, daring adventurers set forth into the vast unknown searching for the fountain of eternal youth or the treasures of El Dorado. Today we use street view on Google Maps. There are few surprises.
We travel more than anyone in the history of humankind – in a bubble of reservations, reviews, and ratings. Our experience is buffered by TripAdvisor, Disneyfied by Disney… safe. But Africa though… Africa is still the great unknown.
You can continue reading Karen’s story on her personal blog.